Ahead of the NHL All-Star Game, the Edmonton Oilers will be hosting their own skills competition to crown the team’s fastest skater, most accurate sniper, hardest shooter and more. But those paying close attention during Sunday’s team skills competition will notice the Oilers players doing more than simply competing against each other, as the team plans on becoming the first to use Pride Tape as a badge of support for LGBTQ youth everywhere.
Pride Tape — hockey tape bearing rainbow colors — was an idea brought to life in large part by the efforts Kris Wells and Jeff McLean with the goal of helping inspire youth athletes from the LGBTQ community to remain in sport. Wells, faculty director of the University of Alberta’s Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS), said that research has shown LGBTQ youth are less likely to participate in physical education and organized sports.
“We really wanted to come up with a way to continue to support dialogue at all levels of sports,” Wells said. “We landed on this concept with our creative partners, Calder Bateman Communications, to allow athletes at any level of sport to use this rainbow tape, Pride Tape, to signal their support for LGBTQ youth. We really conceptualized Pride Tape as a badge of support for LGBTQ youth, and we hope that these six colors will change the world of sports and, in particular, hockey.”
And if they’re targeting changes in hockey, there’s no bigger stage for Pride Tape to be used on than the NHL. The connection with Edmonton Oilers defenseman Andrew Ference allowed for some inroads to be made with the sport’s foremost league, and it’s not even one Wells or McLean, a creative director at Calder Bateman Communications, had to work hard to make.
“Andrew, ever since he came to Edmonton, he sent me a Tweet and said he was a supporter of the You Can Play Project and (asked), ‘How can I get involved here in Edmonton?’ ” Wells said. “Since that time…he’s been involved in many ways, particularly in the LGBTQ community where he became the first team captain of any professional sport in North America to march in a pride parade.”
In a way, Ference has become the face of the project and Kickstarter campaign that was launched with the goal of having the first 10,000 rolls of Pride Tape manufactured. Wells’ connection to Ference helped set up a meeting with McLean, who showed Ference the idea behind Pride Tape, what the plan for the project was and what message Pride Tape was attempting to send.
“He loved it,” McLean said. “He got on board and agreed to be part of the commercial right in that meeting.”
The commercial is an interesting story, too, because getting a television spot together for Pride Tape came about with relative ease. McLean reached out to some media partners and all of the major networks across Canada replied asking how to get involved with the idea. Global even said they’d produce the commercial for Pride Tape free of charge and run it on their networks. “And then Bell, CBC and so many others — the NewAd poster people — everybody has jumped on board,” McLean said. “We’ve been incredibly proud of the support we’ve been getting from everybody.”
Pride Tape’s Kickstarter campaign has a goal of $54,000, and with 10 days remaining the campaign is less than $10,000 shy of reaching its mark. The idea behind the Kickstarter campaign was two-fold: first, it allows people to pay into the idea and contribute to the manufacturing of the tape and, second, it allows the idea to grow from the grassroots instead of having a few big-name ambassadors attempt to grow the idea. Once manufactured, roughly half of all the rolls manufactured will be handed out to grassroots and minor hockey programs, with the other half up for sale. All proceeds from the campaign will be split equally between the You Can Play Project and iSMSS.
The end goal, however, is bigger than getting hockey tape manufactured. The real objective is to further open up the discussion about LGBTQ youth in sport, to give them role models to look up to. Both Wells and McLean pointed out that hockey still doesn’t have an out player in its active ranks or alumni. Pride Tape can be a physical show of support to the LGBTQ youth, some of whom may feel they don’t have a role model in the game. And if grassroots players use the tape, too, it will show LGBTQ players support from their peers.
“The more accessible, the more hands we can get this product into, the better,” Wells said. “It’s a product that is not designed to make anybody profit but to really support these really critical charities and youth work. It’s going to take a community to make this a reality. That’s the key piece behind all of this.”